Securing Cyberspace

Military commanders often talk about the need for “situational awareness” — they want to see and track the potential threats facing them, whether they come from planes, ships, troop movements or any other source.

In a traditional conflict, that awareness might come from a giant digital map hanging in a darkened command center. But as the country faces a growing range of threats to the computers and networks that make these maps and other vital technologies possible, it becomes difficult to imagine what a picture to track them would even look like. 

“Cyberspace is a domain that was entirely created by humans,” says Chris Valentino ’02, MS ’05, information systems. “There’s no good way to visualize it and to see where the threats are.”

Not yet, anyway. A new partnership between UMBC and the Northrop Grumman Corporation is designed to accelerate the development of this and other types of technology that will help protect the country from these growing cyber threats. 

“We want to open the aperture to new technologies and ideas,” explains Valentino, a director of cybersecurity at Northrop Grumman. “We want this partnership to help companies find out-of-the-box solutions that will make our nation more secure.”

The partnership will build on the successful business-incubation framework at the bwtech@UMBC Research and Technology Park by creating the Cync Program. The program is now accepting applications from companies from across the country with the most promising cybersecurity ideas. Those selected to participate will collaborate at bwtech’s north campus, drawing on UMBC’s research expertise and Northrop Grumman resources to develop tools that will secure and protect the computer hardware, software and networks vital to national defense.

Companies will join bwtech’s Advantage Incubator in office space adjacent to campus.

Ellen Hemmerly, executive director of the bwtech@UMBC Research and Technology Park, notes that the program is a perfect fit for a region with a strong information technology workforce and a growing array of businesses and governmental agencies working on cybersecurity.

“UMBC and Northrop Grumman share a culture of innovation,” she says. “This program will build on UMBC’s strength in information technology and its success nurturing new companies. Businesses started through this partnership will come from across the country, expanding the local business base and spurring economic growth in the region.”

Participating companies will be provided with office space, business support services and academic resources, including access to faculty and student employees. For more on the program and information about applying, visit

The Cync Program is part of a growing focus on cybersecurity at UMBC. The university’s new graduate Cybersecurity program offers both a graduate certificate and a master’s degree.

Valentino remembers seeing construction at bwtech during his student days at UMBC, and thinking then about the potential benefit of blending the university’s research expertise with a company like Northrop Grumman’s ability to quickly build complex, structured systems.

Now, he says, he’s thrilled to see what can be accomplished with this new partnership: “This really could go a long way to help meet the country’s cybersecurity needs.”

UMBC’s release on the Cync Program